By Shay Williams Freeskier Magazine – Friday at Snowbasin just can't get enough Winter Dew Tour action. Following the men's halfpipe prelims, a short break ensued, which then gave way to the women's halfpipe prelims. It's true, this is the only Winter Dew Tour stop this year to feature a women's event, but unlike last year's exhibition-style contests, this is a full-fledged, tooth-and-nail, gripping-action kind of event. With the women's depth growing every year, the Winter Dew Tour made the decision to give the women a full qualifying round before finals tomorrow.
As the first women's event of the year, it's always wonderful to see the familiar faces intermingled with some new faces, and some just new-to-halfpipe faces. Sarah Burke is back from her season-ending injury at last year's X Games. Jen Hudak and Jess Cumming are here to dominate the playground they've become so accustomed to. Rosalind Groenewoud, the 2009 AFP Overall Champ is here to make some noise. Anais Caradeux and Virginie Faivre trekked across the pond to makes some waves. Youngster Megan Gunning has taken aim at some of the veterans on the sport. Kaya Turski and Keri Herman tread in unfamiliar territory, trying to get their pipe legs under them. These ladies and so many more showed up to Snowbasin to show what they've got.
Half under the lights and half under the gray afternoon sky, 14 women set the stage to a decent crowd (for any prelim event). Music booming, Mike Atkinson announcing, and cameras rolling, the only thing left to do was drop in.
Taking the top qualifying spot was Jen Hudak. J-to-the-H-U-D confidently threw 540s, 720s and alley-oop 540s, keeping her amplitude up throughout, which kept her on top from her first run on. Sliding into second was Rosalid Groenewoud. Roz was seen boosting straight airs in practice and her two runs were no different. Lofty hits coupled with 540s and 360s tickled the judges in the right spot as she enters tomorrow in second. Rounding out the prelim podium is Reigning three-time X Games gold medalist Sarah Burke. Burke, who hasn't been skiing pipe for as long this year as other competitors, added a new trick to her bag in the first run, namely a flare, but was unable to hold it together. But in her second run, she stomped that signature monster 900 and 720 of hers and cruised into the third spot.
Virginie and Anais may be small in stature, but they more than made up for it in their riding tonight. Both throwing 540s, 360s and boosting their first few hits, the European ladies held it down. Anais also snuck in an alley-oop 540 in her run, while Virginie opted for the 180 version. Jess Cumming who overtook the bubble spot on her final run (which was the final run of the evening) threw two 540s and a big 720 to hang on to the last qualifying spot, while bumping Dania Assaly and her big 720 into seventh.
However, during Roz G's second run, she tweaked her knee and may be unable to compete, in which case Dania would be moved into the finals. We hope that Roz is not seriously injured and will be back soon.
Slopestyle stars Keri Herman and Kaya Turski made their halfpipe competition debut tonight. While both skied well and threw down some tech tricks, the pipe was just too out of their element for them to make the tight cut tonight. But their skiing showed huge potential, so hopefully we'll be seeing more from them in the future. Pretty new to the scene, Megan Gunning didn't finish in the running, but she turned everyone's heads with her nonchalant super corked 720. Watch out for his young lady. Keltie Hansen, who unfortunately couldn't put down a clean run, charged hard and boosted as high as any other woman tonight.
Tomorrow morning marks the showdown between these six ladies. Stay tuned tomorrow for the women's competition, which is immediately followed by the men's pipe finals, which is then followed by the men's slope prelim rounds. Busy days here at the Winter Dew Tour at Snowbasin. Stay tuned to Freeskier.com for all your Winter Dew Tour coverage.